I’m an avid listener of 5by5 Radio. Particularly: Build & Analyze, Hypercritical, Amplified, The Critical Path and Back to Work.
I often hear 5by5’s creator, Dan Benjamin, promoting the web hosting service Squarespace. I’ve known about Squarespace for a few years and have heard good things about them, but knowing Dan puts his money where his mouth is with many of his advertisers, I decided to give SquareSpace a shot with my new portfolio site, Famous But Unknown.
Short answer: SquareSpace is pretty great.
Their admin area is easy to use, with great features like being able to drag images into your browser window to create a gallery page. No clicking on BROWSE and traversing the directories on your computer. Right now it’s a bit too ‘sand-boxed’ for my nerdy, backend-craving taste, but they plan on opening their developer platform soon, according to their Developer FAQ page.
For the last 13 years of being a professional web designer (and sometimes developer), I’ve grown comfortable using FTP programs like Transmit, and having direct access to MySQL databases when setting up WordPress sites for clients, or setting up this site with Movable Type (I had to teach myself how to set up cron jobs so scheduled posted would publish). Not having this granular control on Squarespace is a bit frustrating, but that frustration soon evaporates as I effortlessly curate my portfolio pages and make updates to my (other) blog.
As Dan has mentioned in his on-air plugs, what used to take hours and hours of work to do to maintain a website, SquareSpace makes easy as pie. Not only is it easy to use, it’s also extremely hard to ‘break’ (as clients are known to do with their sites).
Now the downside of Squarespace—the scaling. After a few weeks managing my new portfolio site, I thought about bringing over some of my other domains, including this site. I assumed I would have to upgrade my Standard Account to a Pro Account, but for $16/month, it was definitely worth it. What I discovered is even though you can register and redirect multiple, unique domain names to your Squarespace account, they all resolve to just one of those domains. So for instance, if I have mysite1.com, mysite2.com and mysite3.com all registered with Squarespace, if I visit either mysite2.com or mysite3.com, they’ll both redirect me to mysite1.com. Ugh. I wouldn’t be able to host multiple unique sites, with unique templates and unique content.
In order to set up multiple, unique sites I would have to set up separate accounts with different email addresses but with the same credit card. This was a non-starter for me.
I’m pretty familiar with the admin area of Squarespace and can easily envision them scaling up to accommodate my wish, but as anyone who has done web design and development knows, what you envision and what it takes to make that vision a reality are two very different things. And who knows, maybe the scaling I want isn’t in their product roadmap.
I can appreciate Squarespace taking baby steps in growing their platform, so while my goals are bigger than what they can satisfy, I’m going to do the best I can with my lone site.